Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sunn O))) & Ulver - Terrestrials (2014) ALBUM STREAMING

The versatile emperor of doom metal drone Sunn O))) collaborated with the even more diversified Norwegian experimental black metal ambient neoclassical and so on combo Ulver on this three-track album "Terrestrials" that was released early 2014 by Southern Lord. It was initially conceived between 2008 and 2012, and one can wonder why this rather short full length (around 35 minutes) took so long to see the dark of night.

Strings, horns, drums, organs and even Fender Rhodes, on the magnificent, elegiac and surprisingly delightful "Eternal Return", have been added here and there to the now highly recognizable chthonian near impenetrable drones created by Sunn O)))'s guitars and bass of Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson. Nothing new for all the collaborators involved in this project but an interesting collective work and an ultimately gratifying sonic journey anyways.

Wovenhand - Refractory Obdurate (2014) ALBUM STREAMING

David Eugene Edwards is untameable. Since his tormented God-fearing incantations with the now legendary punkish alt-country-folk 16 Horsepower in the mid-90s until this last and seventh full length album by Wovenhand (also spelled as Woven Hand), "Refractory Obdurate", presented here, Edwards seems to get even fiercer with age. Through time, Wovenhand's music became heavier and heavier, a tendency which was very noticeable on their last album, "The Laughing Stalk", in 2012. That album was produced by Alexander Hacke, of Einstürzende Neubauten's fame, now in the re-formed, with Edwards in the line-up, Crime & The City Solution. In the meantime, Wovenhand left Glitterhouse Records to join the more hardcore punk oriented Deathwish, Inc., where Converge and Deafheaven are the most prestigious current artists, a move that confirms Wovenhand's musically more aggressive orientation.

On a side note, the song "Good Shepherd" sounds surprisingly like a denser and beefed up Echo &The Bunnymen's.

"Refractory Obdurate" is without the shadow of a doubt the heaviest record in Wovenhand's already consequent discography, it is full of blood and fury, a particularly intense and spooky listening experience. Dive head first into this powerful record below.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fennesz - Bécs (2014) ALBUM STREAMING

13 years after Austrian abstract electronic and guitarist Christian Fennesz delivered the lush and colorful little masterpiece "Endless Summer", the musician and composer is back to the Vienna-founded groundbreaking record label Editions Mego for its conceptual follow-up, mysteriously named "Bécs". Fennesz' sixth solo album was released in April 2014 and offers some surprisingly abrasive, moody but moving soundscapes. Fennesz proves with "Bécs" that he's still one of the main masters of the genre. He stands head and shoulders above younger lads like Tim Hecker or Ben Frost thanks to his compositional skills and his attention to details, those with the focus, the vision and the musical eloquence of a poet.

Stream the album below and be enthralled.

Friday, May 23, 2014


This quartet from Brisbane, Australia, came up with their sophomore effort April 2014 almost two years after their already brutal and punishing debut, "Farewell All Joy". This time, IDYLLS offers an extension on their smashing aesthetic with the addition of a screaming saxophone on most of those ten tracks. That band proposes a remarkably relentless and ferocious mix of mathcore, hardcore punk, sludge metal and powerviolence with blast beats, tribal drums, earsplitting guitars, massive bass and soaked-in-wrath vocals. It will be hard to find a more intense album this year, somewhere between The Jesus Lizard under amphetamine and an even rawer Converge. By the way, the latter mentioned band's guitarist, Kurt Ballou, is a.o. responsible for the bright, crisp, detailed although gigantic earth-shattering sound production.

The band focuses mostly on short but very rich and intricate songs, however the ambitious opener "Lied To" licks the seven-minute mark and it doesn't lose in intensity, fascination and, yeah, pleasure throughout.

For those who remember, this album sounds sometimes like John Zorn's Painkiller would be back from hell all covered in sulfur and hatred.

Not for the faint of heart, but highly recommended.

Please stream this harrowing thing below at your own peril. And then download it for frack's sake!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Juana Molina <> FOCUS

Juana Molina is one of the reason I got back to this blog in the first place. It took her a little less than 5 years to come back with a new album, "Wed 21", and I wasn't willing to let it pass by me in any case. But still, here we are, seven months after its release, so I thought that while Juana is starting her European tour it is time for a focus on this very unique, close to genius, imaginative gentle-lady of a singer-songwriter and composer from Argentina.

First off, Juana Molina is near exclusively singing in her native Rioplatense Spanish, and if she pays attention to her lyrics, it doesn't really matter if one doesn't understand a word of Spanish. She doesn't mind neither as she was herself from a very young age immersed into any kind of music her parents were listening to, mostly in English : classical (Schubert, Ravel), bossanova (Gilberto Gil, Antonio Jobim), jazz (Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins), rock (The Beatles, Deep Purple, King Crimson), whatever they saw enjoyable, therefore she has a similar approach to near anyone non-English speakers towards songs sung in English, the lyrics are somehow secondary and it doesn't hinder the listening pleasure. As Juana Molina emphasized herself during a recent interview, not understanding or not paying too much attention to lyrics allows the listener to interpret the words the way he or she feels. Oddly enough, Juana's dad was some prominent tango singer, Horacio Molina, and even though he taught her guitar from the age of six, there is no tango influences in Juana Molina's music. On the other side, she spent many summers in a house her family shared with two major artists of Brazilian music, poet and composer Vinicius de Moraes and bossanova star Chico Buarque. These guys, added to what mom and dad were musically enjoying, had a far stronger impact on Juana Molina's art than anything Argentinian, except for native instruments, her dad included.

Juana Molina's biography would deserve a whole book. For example her command of French is pretty good. I had the advantage to witness it for myself, at one of her gigs here in Brussels where she was introducing and/or commenting on her songs or technical failures with much humor and in close to perfect French. Well, her family spent years in exile in Paris following a military coup in Argentina to start with. Should I mention her extremely successful and popular TV comedic acting career in Argentina in the late 80s/early 90s? I just did. From the start, her first call has always been music; a difficult pregnancy made her get back to her initial vocation. But if you're curious, just find out more for yourself. This blog is focused on music and music is what we'll talk about if you don't mind.

So let's dive into Juana Molina's fascinating discography :

Juana Molina - Wed 21 (2013) REVIEW

Five years has passed since the release of "Un Dia" in 2008 and Juana Molina confessed in a recent interview that she barely knows what she actually did in the meantime. What we do know however is that she toured with David Byrne and Feist, she worked with the likes of Vetiver and Vashti Bunyan and she was involved with the Belgian record label Crammed Discs collective project Congotronics vs Rockers. She also toured Europe and Japan within the framework of this project : 20 musicians on the scene including Konono N°1, Kasai Allstars, Deerhoof, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Skeletons and even Belgian funny band Hoquets for the Brussels gig (of which Juana Molina was the indisputable and charming MC). She also subsequently signed a record deal with Crammed Discs, which took over her last five records onto their catalogue from Domino.
Oh, and she bought an electric guitar : a Gibson SG.

Juana Molina - Un Dia (2008) REVIEW

Juana Molina's underground fame was growing exponentially by the time she released her fifth album, "Un Dia", via Domino Recordings. She saw her song "Salvese Quien Pueda" from "Tres Cosas" remixed by Four Tet in 2005 and she added vocals on The Chemical Brothers's track "Seal" in 2007. Maybe both collaborations somehow gave her the desire to experiment deeper into multi-layered electronics and explore further into her genetic knack for tribal percussion and grooves, in any case "Un Dia" represents Juana Molina's boldest creation to date, at the same time more abstract, more hypnotic, more extrovert and paradoxically more danceable than any of her previous stuff. The singer/songwriter appellation makes no sense anymore, Molina has decided to dive into sounds like some alchemist shaman and the result is one long trip into the realm of the sonically unknown, she keeps pushing musical boundaries.

Alejandro Franov is gone, Juana Molina is near completely on her own with this one; his influence remains audible but his physical absence seems to unleash Juana's huge imagination to the furthest. "Un Dia" is also her most intuitive, spontaneous yet most 'composed' and most adventurous album so far. There is that impression that while recording this work Juana felt as free as a kid left alone in a studio without any boring adult to refrain her to do whatever she likes : she is something like Animal Collective all by herself. Voice, keys, electronics, percussion, guitars are increasingly turning into each other to the point that it doesn't matter anymore who or what does what, each sound could come from any source to form a fantastic organic whole which I honestly haven't heard since Supersilent's masterpieces "5" (2001) and "6" (2003).

Juana Molina - Son (2006) REVIEW

We really barely listen to birds, just like the meandering prettiness of Juana Molina's music could leave us rather impassive as listeners while just as for birds, Molina's music deserves closer attention. Furthermore, there is something in her music which recalls bossanova while absolutely not sounding like it, but just like for bossanova, one tends to relegate such music for background purposes. Juana Molina seems to be more and more aware of this somewhat established fact. With her fourth album, simply called "Son", which can equally be translated by 'they are' and 'tune', Juana Molina has produced a recording which seems to summarize the more sonic experimentation of "Segundo" with the more melodic, singer/songwriting emphasis of "Tres Cosas" while extending significantly her sound palette. Besides, if most of the songs get closer to some pop format, almost danceable at times,  the arrangement become proportionally more disorienting, strange, unearthly, between a dream and a nightmare, hence more colorful, multi-layered and richer, the result being that the music proposed here wouldn't stand in the background very long. Juana Molina wishes to call the would-be listeners out.

Juana Molina & Alejandro Franov - AooB (2003) REVIEW

This peculiar album represents more of a side project for Juana Molina and Alejandro Franov, the man whose influence and impact on Juana Molina's near trilogy, which are "Segundo", "Tres Cosas" and "Son", can not be underestimated. (The sentence 'Some of my keyboard sounds were created by Franov' can be found on those mentioned records liner notes.) Alejandro Franov is one of the most important artists of the Argentinian musical underground, a total multi-instrumentalist whose huge curiosity led him to travel all over the world in search for sounds, from any ethnic instrument, let it be a mbira (African thumb-piano) or an Indian sitar or some rare corner of the world percussion device, but also from the very natural environment he would be part of : field recordings are used throughout Franov's already consequent discography, about a dozen albums since the end of the 90s. One of his album can be found on the German experimental label Staubgold, most of the others on the Japanese label Nature Bliss (a very apt name concerning Franov).

As a sound explorer, the very versatile Argentinian is also using electronics in a very idiosyncratic way, disorienting, atonal, dissonant, almost living a life on its own. A track like "Mantra Del Bicho Feo", on Molina's "Segundo", is a perfect example, Franov's soundwaves can be found all over the place, mainly on the bridge of the song. Alejandro Franov sometimes adds some particularly suave and melancholic vocals here and there, somewhere between Caetano Veloso and Robert Wyatt. Last but not least, he is also a pretty skilled pianist, his last album is simply called "Piano Solo" (There are four tracks to stream on the label bandcamp page); he proposes elegant, beautiful and dreamy vignettes inspired by a sacred Argentinian mountain called Piltriquitron.

Juana Molina - Tres Cosas (2002) REVIEW

Juana Molina's third album "Tres Cosas" focuses more on melodies and singer/songwriting than on abstract electronic soundscapes and polyrhythmic percussion. Molina's vocals are more upfront, she sounds more confident even though it remains closer to whispers than full-throat singing for the best part. The instrumentation is generally more sober, almost anemic at times, and the prominence is given to the acoustic guitar, which Molina plays with much skills and delicacy. Therefore "Tres Cosas" could be more aptly filed into folk music than its predecessor if it wasn't for the idiosyncratic take favored by the artist. Electronic oddities are still present throughout the album, but they are most of the time relegated to the background with some emergence here and there, most notably on songs like the unearthly "Yo Se Que" with its lightly mindnumbing electronic hum of an intro soon accompanied by a tiptoed percussive pulse and Juana's apathetic vocals. Despite its low key atmosphere, this song keeps fascinating all along. The surreal quasi instrumental "Filter Taps" is another electronically disturbed oddity on the album while the wordless "Uh!" with its whiplash sounding percussion and bumpy bass line represents one of the few rhythmic momentum here.

Juana Molina - Segundo (2000) REVIEW

Juana Molina relocated for a short while in Los Angeles and found her calling by the turn of the century with her second album, the aptly called "Segundo", issued by Bla Bla Discos in 2000 in Argentina, then Domino in the rest of the world, from the US to Europe, between 2002 and 2004. Gone are the electric guitars, bass and drums, Juana Molina delivered a very personal take on so-called folktronica for voice, acoustic guitar, electronics and percussion (mostly native instruments like the bombo legüero a.o.). The meeting with multi-instrumentalist and ethnic-ambient-electronic composer Alejandro Franov seems to be crucial to Juana's new aesthetics. Most of the somewhat alien and native percussion sounds found on the album have been created and/or sampled by Franov, this for the decor, the composition are almost completely Juana's creation, with some guests here and there.

Juana Molina - Rara (1996) REVIEW

Our Lady from Rio Plata started her musical career in 1996 with a modest collection of songs on "Rara", which was released in 1996 by MCA Argentina. This album could surprise anyone even slightly familiar with Juana Molina's later work as it contains mostly guitar-oriented 'rock' songs akin to some more muscular, tighter and funkier The Sundays without reverbs and rather more complex structures. A quite solid if not particularly original album full of fine melodies, clever hooks and some efficient riffs produced by one of the biggest names in Latin rock and pop music, Gustavo Santaolalla, the guy responsible for the film soundtracks of "Brokeback Mountain" and "Babel", among others. Juana Molina has already found her voice, hum, vocally, straight-forward, throaty, a bit detached and velvety, somewhere between Astrid Gilberto and Suzanne Vega. One song could show where Juana Molina is slowly heading, and that's "Busca Bien Y No Molestes", a beautiful, soft, melancholic thing with subtle percussion and tasteful violin and cello, the arrangement are pretty worked out and somewhat shows her further ambition. However, no one was prepared to what came next.

6 out of 10

Monday, May 5, 2014

Miasm - The Dark Roads (2014) ALBUM STREAMING

Utah-based musician and sound sculpture wizard Jeremiah Savage has created throughout the years a whole bunch of virtual sound libraries, which contain hundreds of materials shaped into new and playable instruments, the last one being KINETIC METAL.

Jeremiah is also a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist and a poet. Miasm is his latest musical project, "The Dark Roads" being its debut full-length, where our sound artist indulges in his more personal musical tastes all along the nine rather long tracks which compose the album. The songs proposed in this collection defy categorization and definition. They can hardly be called 'songs' in its traditional meaning, they are more like exploration of emotions and thoughts, myths and melancholy, "through progressing music structures that evolve with ideas. Structures that are familiar, like a broken memory or a remembered dream." (Quoted from the album's liner notes) "The Dark Roads" is indeed a world inside, an eerie, atmospheric and, as the title suggests, a dark album whose sound palette is rather close to a very peculiar mix of gothic, post-metal, cold wave, shoegaze and even some industrial elements, maybe thanks to the above mentioned KINETIC METAL library. Despite Jeremiah Savage's sound sculpture works, all songs here give much place to soft and hazy vocals, they are sometimes almost whispered, as well as melodic, here dreamy, there more hard-rocking, guitars, accompanied by a low meandering bass and glacier-speed drumming. The whole thing made me sporadically think of some sleepy The Cure or apathetic The Church. A pretty interesting, immersive, emotional and indeed spooky musical experience which you can discover, listen and download on Miasm's bandcamp or down here.